Although they're not typically household names, a strong case can be made that no single group has had more of an influence on the sound of American music than arrangers. One thing that can't be disputed though, is that the arranger is front and center when it comes to big band swing. A first-person participatory tribute to the arranging skills of Frank Foster, the latest from the George Gee Big Band, Settin' the Pace, showcases Foster's music under his own direction. With the big band's seventeen musicians, Foster has plenty of brass at his disposal to chart the complete range of voicings necessary to give this music its combination of strength and beauty.
Drummer Willard Dyson and bassist Daryl Hall are placed up in the mix, and their perfect timing makes this a refreshingly danceable set. In addition, top soloists are also given room to strut their stuff. Pianist Jon Cowherd provides a fine intro for baritone man Howard Johnson and trombonists Eddie Bert, Charles Stephens, and Jack Jeffers to shine on the title piece, while Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood is soulfully fresh courtesy of saxmen Lance Bryant (on tenor) and Michael Hashim (on alto). Likewise, Renato Thoms lends his Latin percussion to a spirited version of "Mambo Inn and Walt Szymanski's trumpet beautifully commiserates about how it feels "When Your Lover has Gone.
Foster's own compositions are a delight as guitarist Joe Cohn is in fine form on the swinger "Ready Now That You Are GG and Hall sets a perfect pace as the "Bass in Yo' Face. Don't forget to hold your partner tight as vocalist Carla Cook croons three numbers, including an especially sensual "The Very Thought of You, and Bryant lays down his tenor to plead "I Don't Want to Sing the Blues. Swinging arrangements, solid songs, and great players are the basic ingredients for that classic full big band sound. All three are happily present on Settin' the Pace.
Track Listing: Out of Nowhere; Settin' the Pace; Lover Come Back to Me; In a Sentimental Mood; Mambo Inn; Ready Now That You Are GG; Bass in Yo' Face; The Very Thought of You; When Your Lover Has Gone; Autumn Leaves; I Don't Want to Learn to Sing the Blues; Scrapple from the Apple
Personnel: George Gee, leader; Frank Foster, composer, arranger; Eddie Bert,Trombone; Lance Bryant Flute, Arranger, Sax (Tenor), Vocals; Joe Cohn,Guitar; Carla Cook, Vocals; Jon Cowherd, Piano; Willard Dyson, Drums; Daryl Hall, Bass; Michael Hashim, Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor); Jack Jeffers, Trombone, Trombone (Bass); Ed Pazant, Flute, Sax (Alto); Charles Stephens, Trombone; Walt Szymanski, Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Renato Thoms, Percussion
Robert Trowers Trombone
Steve Wiseman Flugelhorn, Trumpet (Muted)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.